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This Day in History

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Monday, July 12, 1937. :   American actor and comedian Bill Cosby is born.

     African-American actor and comedian, Bill Cosby, was born William Henry Cosby Jr on 12 July 1937 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Despite his mother being a hard-working housekeeper and his father serving as a mess steward with the US Navy, financial difficulties forced the family to sell their house and move to a housing project in the Germantown district of North Philadelphia. Although the neighborhood was rough, Cosby's mother provided a firm moral ground for her sons by reading to them from the Bible and from authors such as Mark Twain. Cosby also enjoyed the serial radio programs of the time, such as The Lone Ranger, The Shadow, Lights Out, and the humour of Jack Benny, Jimmy Durante, Fred Allen, and George Burns with Gracie Allen.

A veteran stand-up performer, Cosby gained his start working clubs and making comedy albums. He then moved into television with a ground-breaking role in the 1960s action show I Spy, with actor Robert Culp. I Spy was an adventure show that catered to cold-war America's appetite for James Bond-style espionage fantasies. Despite it starring an African-American in times when the concept of racial equality was considered by few, the show succeeded, largely in part to Cosby's skill and convincing performance. Following the show's debut in 1965, Cosby was honored with an Emmy award for outstanding actor in a dramatic series, and again in the next two consecutive years.

In 1969 Cosby starred in his own situation comedy series, The Bill Cosby Show. He also created the humorous educational cartoon series Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, about a group of young friends growing up in the city. The following decade, Cosby produced and starred in his own TV sitcom, 'The Cosby Show', which ran from 1984 to 1992. The Cosby Show was unique for being the first sitcom based around a successful, middle-class African-American family.

Cosby and his wife have four daughters: their only son, Ennis, was killed whilst changing a tyre in 1997, the victim of a murder-robbery.

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